Tennessee rolls out vaccines for children ages 5 to 11

By Gabby Mchaourab / News Editor

On November 3rd, 2021, the Tennessee Department of Health announced that the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) authorized the vaccination of children ages 5 to 11. With over 600,000 children now eligible for the vaccine, the number of outbreaks in schools should be reduced. .

According to the Tennessee Department of Health, while children 5 to 11 are more likely to have milder symptoms, they have an overall higher number of outbreaks which leads to spread in the greater community.

“The approval of the COVID-19 vaccine for pediatric patients further bolsters our efforts to combat the spread of COVID-19 and continue to put an end to this pandemic,” Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Health (TDH) Lisa Piercey, MD, said. 

On Monday, Nov. 8, TDH sought to start rolling out the vaccinations at 8 a.m. Like everyone else, children would receive two doses of the Pfizer vaccine. However, the dosage would be one-third of the adult dosage. The shots will be offered at various locations. From 3 p.m. until 6:30 p.m., shots will be offered at the drive-through site Community Assessment Center in Murfreesboro.

CHILD VACCINE TRIALS: Nine year old Marisol Gerardo is given her second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine during a clinical trial at Duke University Medical Center on April 12. / Credit: Shawn Rocco.

The TDH has also set up clinics at metro schools to make it easier for parents to take their children to get vaccinated. These schools include Maplewood High School and Cane Ridge High School which will be open for vaccines from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.

These clinics will be held throughout November and December with varying dates. For more information about these dates, check the Metro Nashville Public School website for important details.

During the peak of the COVID-19 Delta variant, 40% of all cases in Tennessee were among kids. Doctors began warning parents to make sure their children were wearing masks, because of an influx in a rare inflammatory disease resulting from  COVID in children. According to Hopkins Medicine Multisystem, inflammatory syndrome is an illness that can occur after having COVID-19, and it mainly affects younger children.

“We had surges in children’s hospitals across the state. We led the country in kids that were sick and hospitalized with COVID. Yes, it’s uncommon, but it absolutely happens, and for those who have seen it with their own eyes, there’s no question about the seriousness of this,” an Associate professor of Pediatric Infectious Disease from Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Dr. Issac Thomsen, said. 

 However, new questions arise as the omicron COVID variant becomes prevalent. Many wonder if children getting the vaccine is smart with the possibility of the new variant being resistant to the vaccine.

“The occurrence of a new variant of SARS-COV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19), such as Omicron, emphasizes the need for people to continue to get vaccinated. The purpose of vaccination is to not only decrease the risk of death and hospitalizations against the virus but also prevent further mutations of the virus that create new variants, such as Delta and Omicron,” Harpeth Hall School Nurse Ellie Garstin said.

“As more people get vaccinated, there are decreased opportunities for the virus to mutate and change. The vaccine is still effective toward multiple variants of SARS-CoV-2. Therefore, people should continue to get vaccinated (whether it is an initial dose or booster) regardless of a new variant that may arise.”

According to CNBC, many have introduced the idea of new vaccines specifically for omicron; however, these vaccines most likely won’t be effective considering the transmissibility of the new variant. While scientists can not yet tell how contagious the omicron variant will be, they have discovered a protein that has certain mutations connected with less antibody protection and greater transmission. 

What many scientists believe is most important at this stage in the pandemic is that children ages 5 to 11 begin getting vaccinated. As not much is known about the omicron variant, it is essential to continue focusing on what we can control.

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